How to Get More Done Naturally with the Pomodoro Technique

You’re better off taking regular short breaks than pushing through without stopping.

You can’t pick up a set of weights, bust out 240 reps, and expect good things to happen. For one thing, if you can do 240 reps without stopping, you don’t have enough weight. If you have the correct weight, your muscles will give out after about fifteen reps.

Instead of going for one set of 240, break it up. Do fifteen reps, then rest for a minute or two. Call that a set. Do four sets of four different exercises, and you can easily get 240 reps in an hour-long workout.

The key is the rest between each set. That one- or two-minute break gives your muscles a much-needed rest to recover. Work them too hard—including not giving them that break—and you’re just going to get tired without seeing the results you’re after.

Your brain needs rest between reps while it’s working, too. The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, is designed to help you develop a similar natural cadence at work.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / praisaeng

7 Simple Ways to Save Anything in Evernote

Capture your life from anywhere and get back to living.

A recipe for bacon-wrapped jalepeno poppers. An audio recording of your kids saying hello. The receipt from your trip to Costco. A comic strip that made you smile.

It’s a filing cabinet you actively reference. It’s an archive where you can safely store a copy of scanned documents. It’s an indispensable part of your digital planning system.

Evernote is great at archiving information. It indexes everything and even lets you search for text inside of images. There’s no cap on how much data your account can hold. That’s why hundreds of millions of people use Evernote for their digital brain.

Here are seven ways you can capture the stream of information coming at you and save it into Evernote.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / dzono

How to Update your Daily Record on the Go Using Drafts

Use custom actions to make the complex routine.

Evernote is one-third of my digital planning system. I use OmniFocus to track what I need to do, Fantastical to track where I need to be, and Evernote to record a log of what I’ve done.

On both macOS and iOS, OmniFocus and Fantastical have ways to capture pretty quickly. You’re never more than a few taps, keystrokes, or spoken words away from creating a new task or meeting.

Updating your daily record in Evernote isn’t so easy. Evernote will let you quickly create a new note, but we need to be able to update an existing note. On macOS, I solved this problem a long time ago with an AppleScript that will find or create the right note and add a new entry. It made updating my daily record almost frictionless.

On iOS, the friction was still there. Making an entry on the go was so tedious that instead of recording what I had done right then when it happened, I’d try to remember it to do it when I got back to my Mac. You can guess how well that worked.

Fortunately, I just found a solution that makes updating your daily record on the go as simple as doing it at your desk. In fact, I’ll sometimes use my phone (okay, watch) to make an entry because it’s kind of fun.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / tiagozr

How to Capture Ideas Before They Disappear with Drafts

Writing it down shouldn’t require another idea

Think of the following paper-based workflow: you’re working at your desk when an idea comes to you. Maybe it’s something you need to do, someplace you need to be, a book you want to read, a new recipe you want to try this weekend, or a character trait you want to develop. Whatever it is, you don’t want to forget it, but now is not the right time for it.

You reach for a slip of paper from a small stack you keep next to your inbox tray on the corner of your desk. You write down the idea, put the slip in the inbox tray where you can process it later, and get back to work.

It’s textbook GTD. Your brain had an idea. Instead of trying to hold it there until it was time to act on it, you wrote it down to process it later. Mind like water.

It’s a clean and simple workflow. If you plan digitally, there’s an app for that! Meet Drafts, the unusual text editor for iOS from Agile Tortoise.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / kaseyj

How to Kick Fear to the Curb in Just 5 Seconds

The 5-Second Formula for Action that will Transform Your Life

Our brain is where we think thoughts. It’s also where thoughts go to die.

You see, our brain has one job: keep us alive. As our need for Survival is satisfied, we start exploring ways of staying alive more efficiently, improving the quality of our lives, and helping others stay alive. The moment our Survival is threatened, however, our brain sets all that aside and reverts to its primary mission.

There’s one problem: our brain is terrible at distinguishing between different types of threats. It doesn’t matter whether the threat is physical or emotional. If it threatens any of our basic needs, our brain will invoke the same fight-or-flight response to get us out of danger.

When you have the idea to do something bold, you have five seconds to act on it before you brain will shut the idea down.

Photo courtesy of SpaceX

Meet the One Password You Need to Memorize

Use a Strong, Unique Password for Every Site you Visit

The One Password You’ll Ever Need to Remember

If I don’t have to memorize something, I prefer not to. Albert Einstein said, “Intelligence is not the ability to remember information, but knowing where to find it.” In Getting Things Done, David Allen wrote, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” I’m in good company.

I used to devote an inordinate amount of mental energy to remembering passwords. I tried to follow the recommended practices of incorporating numbers and punctuation and never reused passwords across sites. I would take something distinct about the site as a mnemonic and derive a unique-but-relevant password. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I reset a password only to retrace the same steps into the mind palace and arrive at the same password I had set before. (I know this because some sites don’t let you reset your password to what it was.)

Then I met 1Password. Now I delegate (almost) all of my password concerns to it, freeing up my attention to focus on what I need to do instead of the details of doing it.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Tomasz Zajda (and 1Password)

A More Powerful Way to Schedule Tasks in OmniFocus

How to set up Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Master Task Lists

Let’s say you need to return a book to the library by Saturday, August 19. If possible, you’d like to return it a few days early while you’re out running errands. Simple, right?

Most task managers can’t handle this. They only have one way to schedule the task: set a due date on it. But which date do you put down? It’s due on August 26—that’s when you’re going to have consequences if you don’t get it done. But you want to do it on Wednesday, August 23.

Most apps can’t handle this simple scenario. You have one field. You need to know the due date to plan properly. You can’t sometimes use that field to schedule tasks or you will never trust your system again.

My two favorite task managers handle this just fine: OmniFocus and my Franklin planner. OmniFocus has a defer date which lets you schedule tasks for a specific date, keeping the due date and the do-it date separate. This is a good start, but it’s limited.

How do you schedule a task for the week of September 11? Or 2018Q1? Or sometime next August (August 2018)?

Here’s how to configure OmniFocus to schedule tasks as powerfully and flexibly as a Franklin planner.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Igor Negovelov

How to Make Any Process Foolproof with a Checklist

Consistent Results with Less Effort and Stress

After I finish writing a blog post, there are still 43 things I need to do to publish it. Some are pretty trivial, but they still need done.

I used to worry about making mistakes. Several times, I published a post without adding a more tag (<!-- more --> — it’s a WordPress thing), or with an empty link (<a href="">), or at an oddball time (right day, but 3:47 pm instead of midnight). Once, I even forgot to schedule the post at all—I left it as a draft.

None of these were a big deal and each was quickly and easily rectified. It was, however, increasing the cognitive load to publish a post, stressing me out, and making it take longer than I wanted it to.

So I did what any self-respecting productivity nerd would do: I solved the problem one last time by making a checklist.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Andrey Popov

How to Start Any Document with the Right Template

You only need to start at the beginning once.

I’ve loved tear-off stationery pads as long as I can remember. You know the ones—they’re like Post-It Notes with a form printed on them. Shopping lists, to-do lists, packing lists, babysitter instructions… Once, my parents bought a “While You Were Out” pad to keep by the phone in the kitchen. I was thrilled.

Paper is powerful, and stationery pads give you a starting point to help you quickly create a powerful little document, sometimes as little as 3″×3″. You knew you wouldn’t miss something because you had a template. All you had to do was fill out the fields.

Fast-forward to today. The world is much more digital now but we have a lot of the same workflows—meeting agendas and minutes, quarterly reports, envelopes… Have you ever started a new document by creating a copy of and old document? You know how helpful it is to have a template to start from instead of starting from scratch every time.

Did you know the Mac has a built-in feature that lets you turn any document into a digital stationery pad? It’s a great way to get a jump-start on any workflow.

Photo Courtesy of © Adobe Stock / aleks_g

What Contexts Should You Use?

Identify when, where, and how you’ll get things done.

One of the fundamental concepts in GTD is the context. As David Allen explains in Getting Things Done (2015) (emphasis his):

[The] best way to be reminded of an “as soon as I can” action is by the particular context required for that action—that is, either the tool or the location or the situation needed to complete it.

In other words, contexts are a way of marshaling the many things you need to do so you can focus on the few that you can take action on right now.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / praphab144